Deeper: Part Five
I settled into the cushions and held in a yawn as best I could. Buzz walked into the office and I offered him a cup of coffee before pouring my own. I wasn't the type who ran on coffee, I'd never found it did me much good for alertness, but I liked it none the less.
Buzz sat down at his desk and took a sip of his coffee as he looked at his computer screens. I knew he'd been up hours already, so I was curious what he had been doing. However, I didn't want to seem like I was paranoid and suspicious about his every move, so I wasn't about to ask.
I looked over at the other desk in the room. It was Lynette's desk, I knew. I didn't know if any of her stuff was still there, or if Buzz would mind if I worked there while I worked on my articles and comics. I held back a sigh as I took another sip of my coffee. It seemed like I was always walking on Negg shells, afraid to ask too much or to bring up painful memories for my partner.
I stifled another yawn; I wished I could have stayed in bed awhile longer. Without the sun, I was having a hard time waking up. I'd never been good at functioning without natural light, so the constant artificial lights of the station were wreaking havoc with me.
"Are you sleeping okay?" Buzz asked.
"Well, as well as I ever do away from home. I just have a hard time waking up in artificial light. I'll wake up soon enough. I just don't want to go out like this, since that would seem weird from a girl who has lived her life in space," I said. "How's it for you? Do you adjust just fine, or are you more used to sunshine after all the years planetside?"
"When you were raised to be a soldier, you adjust to anything right away," Buzz replied.
I nodded and picked up the copy of the Neopian Times sitting on the table. Nothing too interesting was going on, which I was grateful for. Not only because it meant my kids were safe without me, but because the journalist in me would have hated missing a big story.
"I know it's only been a week and a half, but I'm really missing my day job," I commented aloud.
"Given the way you trip over your own feet and get into trouble, I thought this would be the best thing that has ever happened to you. You haven't tripped once since putting on that costume."
I shrugged. "I dunno, maybe it is the tail. But, I really like being a journalist. The kids tried to get me to quit once, but I couldn't do it."
"And it wound you up with the Meepits," Buzz sniggered. "A great career move, Kimmy."
I got up, scratching one of my fake ears in embarrassment, a habit I had been developing. "You don't have to rub it in. I'm not even sure how they found me or knew I was looking for full time work with an actual paper. I mean, if I'd been a little older, I might have been mildly suspicious about that."
"Ah, to be young and dumb. Something I know nothing about. I was young once, but never dumb."
"You know, I don't even need to be in character to want to ditch you this morning," I complained. "I'm going to go find something to eat. There has got to be some place on this station that serves something that looks remotely like real food."
Buzz just laughed at me as I left, which I took to be a very bad sign.
I wound up back in the lieutenants' favorite café for my breakfast. After trying two other dining establishments in the bowels of the Space Station, I had been about to give up for lost. I wasn't allowed up to Grundo's Café, because that level had cameras that were run by civilians, and we wanted to leave as few traces of Eva Starender as possible.
I refused to eat anything glowing, floating, freeze dried, with eyeballs, made with ingredients I was pretty sure didn't grow under the sun, or were pure sugar. That limited my options significantly. But, I'd found the café served cherry yogurt. It was served in a bowl shaped like Sloth's face, so eating while having Sloth essentially grinning at me was somewhat unnerving, but it was better than trying to figure out how a plant could grow scrambled eggs.
I wondered if Dr. Sloth knew I was there. We'd had an unusual relationship since my Starry Pteri had insulted him to his face during an interview a few years ago. I didn't think Sloth held that against me any longer. He was always willing to let me tour his operations and write articles on what an evil villain he was when I needed filler.
Nicola and Andrea walked in as I sat there eating. I ignored them, if they wanted to come talk to Eva; they were welcome to do that. Eva didn't really care for small talk if she could help it, and she certainly didn't seek the company of others.
They walked over and sat down on opposite sides of me.
"Big fan of the good doctor?" Andrea asked, pointing to my Sloth shaped bowl.
I just continued eating, ignoring the comment.
"Not a morning person?" Andrea teased.
"You're not going to be a very big Sloth fan or a morning person after I introduce your face to the bowl," I replied. "And then, I'll make you pay for a replacement breakfast."
"Shutting up now," Andrea replied.
The two of them continued sitting there. They didn't order anything, and they both seemed to be watching me while trying to look like they weren't. It was vaguely unsettling, since I still didn't have a clue who the mole was. It could be either of them. They could be watching me to try to figure me out better. Or, it could be neither of them, and they were just two guys wanted to try to be more chummy with Eva, but weren't sure how to go about it since she was such an egotistical, self centered jerk.
Still, I needed to keep up the act with Eva, regardless of their motivations. I turned to Nicola, deciding that since he hadn't spoken, he was infinitely the less annoying of the two in Eva's opinion.
"Do you two need something? You're not eating, and you're both looking at me. If you don't need anything, I suggest you both make yourselves very scarce," I said to him.
"Well, actually, yes, we do. As part of a training exercise, we do a laser match every other week, dividing into two teams and trying to take the other down. We thought you might like to join in, as a wildcard. You'll play alone, and we'll try to take down the other team, and you. You'll try to take us down. We can't join forces against you, so it won't be all six of us solely against you," Nicola explained. "Tomorrow at 14:00."
I finished off the last of my yogurt and got up. "I'll check my schedule, and if I have nothing better to do, and I'm bored, I might join you. It could be fun watching you six trip over yourselves pathetically."
"Well, message Nigel if you're coming," Andrea said.
I waved my usual dismissive wave and walked out of the café.
I walked back into the office I shared with Buzz, finally used to the fact that he knew exactly what had just happened in the café.
"So, bonding time with the six suspects," I said as the doors closed behind me. "This would be fun, if I was actually Eva Starender. I'm gonna make a fool of myself."
"Nonsense, all you have to do is study the layout, find a good vantage point, let them take each other down, and pick off the survivors. You took down several space pirates the other day, and that was the real deal," Buzz replied.
"Yeah, but, they weren't well trained lieutenants. I'm guessing these guys have to be better than the pirates," I said uncertainly.
"Take nothing for granted, Kimmy. They could be as pathetic as the soldiers under their command. This place is really slipping. Such pathetic soldiers would never have been tolerated in my time. If Lynette and I..." he trailed off.
"Would have eventually left for the house in the suburbs and desks jobs as covers for your work for the Meepits, and it wouldn't have been your problem anyway?" I suggested.
"Perhaps," Buzz said. "Regardless, I'll be glad when this is finally over, as well. Now, you pull up the schematics of the training room and look for any position that could give you that advantage. You are Eva Starender, you're ruthless, you're bitter, and you don't give a Borovan about decency or fairness in combat. Fight as dirty as you have to, break the rules, and make them hate you. The mole will secretly love that."
"Okay," I said, mentally psyching myself up by repeating his words in my head.
"But first, we have another meeting to attend," Buzz said with a sadistic grin.
"Oh, not again," I moaned.
To be continued...